Front Page







World Summary

On Air


Talking Point


Low Graphics


Site Map

Tuesday, January 13, 1998 Published at 16:54 GMT


Controversial head of state portrait officially unveiled
image: [ 'Fresh and funky' portrait of a lady ]
'Fresh and funky' portrait of a lady

"Off with her head," screamed the newspaper headlines. But they were too late. The Queen had already been decapitated, albeit on canvas, by her latest portrait painter.

[ image: The painting was unveiled after press leaks]
The painting was unveiled after press leaks
The controversial new picture of Queen Elizabeth II - with her head floating above a distorted body against a yellow background - has been unveiled early after it was leaked to the press.

What do you think? Give your verdict in Talking Point.

The painting by the 27-year-old artist Justin Mortimer was commissioned by the Royal Society for the Arts to mark the 50th anniversary of its link with the Queen.

It continues a trend in non-traditional portrayals of the monarch. Recent examples have been criticised for sausage fingers, blotched skin and double chins.

[ image: The artist Justin Mortimer: Up-coming talent]
The artist Justin Mortimer: Up-coming talent
The latest portrait was deliberately commissioned from a young and up-and-coming talent. It represents an obvious coup for the artist.

Mr Mortimer says he did not try to be controversial on purpose.

"I wanted to get away from the royal aspect and paint a picture of a person rather than the Queen.

"It means people can focus more on the abstract quality of the painting and get away from the normal paintings of royalty, where everything is intact and, dare I say it, sycophantic."

He sees the picture as "fresh and funky" and thinks it is just what the monarchy needs to become more modern.

[ image: The
The "beautifully drawn" head
Penny Egan, of the RSA, says: "I think it is fabulous. I think it is very sensitive and very sympathetic.

"The head is very beautifully drawn. I think it will make people look afresh at an image that is so very well known and reinvigorate portrait painting in general."

The portrait will go on display to the public for five days from next Wednesday at the Business Design Centre in north London.

Reactions from two members of the public who got a sneak preview were promising.

"Bizarre... it's good", thought one.

"Different, very different... it's good though," said another.

What do you think?. Let us know at Talking Point

The picture will be officially hung at the RSA in March.

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage


[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
  Relevant Stories

13 Jan 98 | Talking Point
Does the Queen's new portrait improve her image?

05 Jan 98 | UK
Queen seeks opinion of the people

20 Nov 97 | UK
Queen promises to modernise the monarchy

  Internet Links

The British Monarchy

Royal Society for Arts

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.